After watching The Help I felt like Viola Davis was snubbed at the Oscars when Meryl Streep won for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. For me, Davis was captivating and won me over immediately with the strength of her performance as a Mississippi maid (Aibileen) in the 1960s. Davis perfectly evoked the stoicism necessary of generations of black women and men to have in order to get through those especially horrible times for our country. You rooted for her all the way and, in the end, when Aibileen's huge risk paid off, it was easy to celebrate. Going into it, I was worried The Help was going to be a sappy chick flick, but it was not. It was honest, funny, and Davis, among others, was captivating and awe-inspiring. She deserved the Oscar. There wasn't a better performance. There couldn't have been.
Well, that was before I watched The Iron Lady a few nights ago. From the first scene Streep appeared in, portraying an old, frail Thatcher suffering from dementia, it was clear I was going to see something very special. The ease with which Streep portrayed Thatcher, from the voice to her mannerisms, belied the staggering amount of work that Streep must have taken on to trick the viewer into thinking they were watching a real-life documentary on the Iron Lady. I didn't even find it necessary to compare Streep's Thatcher to the real thing. Streep just was Thatcher in all those huge moments of her life, when she declared to Denis Thatcher, her husband (played by Jim Broadbent), that she would be running for leader of the party, or when she led during the Falklands War, or when she took her last stroll out the front door of 10 Downing Street. In The Help, there was a strong supporting cast and the story itself had a much more complete arc to it than The Iron Lady, which was carried aloft by Streep. I am not sure that The Iron Lady would have been a movie if they hadn't signed Streep, but I do know that it wouldn't have been the same movie without her. Streep, remarkably and without a doubt, deserved the Oscar this year.